“Careless” Train Workers

Are workers to blame for train accidents?

“ROYAL TRAIN DERAILED” was the headline that caught my attention in the October 30, 1907 issue, in which the train carrying the King and Queen of Spain and their infant prince son came off the rails as a result of the “carelessness of a local engine driver.” Shortly after this story, within the same page, was another story with the headline “Train Collision” with yet another description of a “careless employee.” I became curious if there existed a trend in accidents being caused by “careless” train workers.

I performed a query to find all instances of the descriptor “careless” found in the same division a “train” was mentioned. My results provided 6 instances of a “careless” individual or group being responsible for a train related accident or issue – 5/6 whom were train workers. Half of the accidents resulted in no injuries, while the other half resulted in severe injuries or death.

In searching other blog posts, I discovered another train incident in which a train “caught on fire due to an exploding lamp in one of the first-class cars” and a data analysis that showed that “train and car wrecks/accidents” accounted for 6% of all deaths recorded in 1905.

As explained by the Daily News Egypt, the construction of railroads in Egypt began in 1834, making it the first railway system in Africa, with a route connecting Alexandria to Cairo and Suez beginning in 1851. Throughout the railway’s history, different companies and organizations would control different portions of track, such as the Egyptian State Railways Administration and the Delta Light Railway Company, resulting in the multitude of railway ads found throughout the Egyptian Gazette.

Alhough not every incident I found occured in Egypt, the country still has a long history of railway accidents, and, unfortunately, they continue to this day, with the deadliest accident occurring in 2002 in which over 370 people died when a train caught fire.

Damian Grant
Damian Grant

The author, a student at Florida State University, was enrolled in the digital microhistory lab in fall 2019.